North Korea calls citizens to ‘break through barriers’ amidst the nuclear standoff

While a North Korean deadline for the United States to loosen its stand on denuclearization talks happened uneventfully over the New Year, media from the state and propaganda efforts have been aiming at the prospect of an awaited encounter with the United States.

“Break through barriers”

Optimism that two years of contacts between U.S. President Donald Trump and leader Kim Jong Un would move towards a new age, and connected hopes for economic improvement after decades of deprivation, seems to have vanished.

Instead, in recent weeks the government has been doing hard work utilizing state media, propaganda posters, and performances to warn the public of an uneasy road under U.S. and international pressure. The propaganda efforts consist of calls for North Koreans to “break through barriers” and bolster the country.

The country observed celebrations for Lunar New Year on the weekend which included a concert for Kim and other dignitaries. Tributes were given to the country’s leaders for surmounting adversity. It is a known message for North Koreans, however, one that now underlines that the leadership does not envisage a breakthrough in diplomacy in the near future.

“The message will be that because of the U.S. hostile policy and sanctions, those things will be more difficult for the foreseeable future,” said Andray Abrahamian, a visiting scholar with George Mason University Korea.

North Koreans are seeking Sanction Relief 

One European scholar said, that North Korean officials still say they are badly searching for sanctions relief. The scholar regularly attends informal meetings with North Korean representatives.

North Korea has publicly announced that it is no longer held by commitments to stop nuclear and missile testing, accusing the United States of failing to abide by the year-end deadline for it to offer more flexibility regarding the nuclear talks and its sanctions which are “brutal and inhumane”.

Since Kim became the leader in 2011, many North Koreans have continuously observed improved living conditions as compared with deprivation and even famines of the 1990s. Kim doubled down in 2018 by announcing the “completion” of the program regarding nuclear weapons would enable the government to aim at economic development.

However, the failure to get sanctions relief is forcing Kim in a sensitive spot.

“In 2012, Kim promised that there would be no more belt-tightening, so for him to call on the country to prepare for exactly that sends a very clear message,” Abrahamian said.

“Most North Koreans have seen their economic prospects improve under Kim Jong Un so I’m sure this is a worrying time for them.”

The propaganda push is made to back a line Kim said in a speech at the end of last year calling for North Koreans to get ready for an “arduous and prolonged struggle” and to support a self-sufficient economy because of a delay in the anticipated easing of sanctions, analysts said.

Kim used that speech to recognize that North Korea might need to “tighten our belts” for the time being. However, state media and propaganda have not yet majorly cornered that line widely, likely in part as a reason for Kim’s past promises, stated Rachel Minyoung Lee, an analyst with NK News, a website that keeps a track of North Korea.

“It is a controversial term and North Korea will likely roll it out very subtly and carefully,” she said.

Hello, I’m Anna Yeo. If you like my news coverage, please drop a good word in my inbox. I’m journalist by profession and have been part of many major reporting across the globe. I like to write crisp and factual news. I have completed my masters degree in journalism. Feel free to contact me at [email protected]

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